by Donna Sealy
The Junior Minister of Tourism competition is the first that Kezia Forde has won.
And she likes it.
Before that competition, which was held in January, the Lower Sixth former at Combermere School had to settle for a runner-up position, or being a semi-finalist.
So far, she has entered the Barbados International Business Association’s Speech Competition where she was the lone female finalist, she came third in the UNICEF competition on the Rights of the Child, Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association Poster and Essay contest.
But Kezia is not one to back away from a challenge, the 17-year-old says she is “pretty outgoing” and she likes to try new things.
Why did she enter this competition?
“There was a short programme that the ministry was running with the former Junior Minister of Tourism Christopher Morgan so I was like, if he could do it then I could do it too. It has its challenges in terms of the impromptu section that was a little bit of a scare but then I said if you know a lot about it, then it shouldn’t come as a problem.
“It seemed so interesting and so fun and then he spoke about the island tour that they had and how he was able to find out more and how tourism wasn’t his main industry from which he would choose a career but he was able to learn a lot from it and he was able to find out more,” she said.
Kezia remembers the second place student Kemar mentioning the occupations within the industry and the fact there was a lot that young people could learn.
She said her parents, Merton and Selicia didn’t have any objections to her entering the competition apart from the responsibility that came along with winning.
“They told me go ahead like how they would have with all the other competitions that I went into,” she added.
Kezia, who attended the BHTA’s quarterly meeting recently as Junior Minister, noted that her biggest hope as the minister is to bring the voice of young people to those in the Ministry of Tourism.
“I want to come up with suggestions and ideas that could be put forward to help the ministry because tourism is something that could be one of our top revenue earners if not the top revenue earner. So many times you hear in the news things that could jeopardise it.
“For instance, when I went to the BHTA breakfast meeting they were talking about how the tourists are coming to Barbados and are going to the tourist attractions but they’re not spending as much money at the attraction. So when they go to places like Harrison’s Cave, they may go but they might not be buying a lot of souvenirs from the shops.
“So though they’re getting money from the tour they’re not getting money the extra income they usually get … and that’s a problem. Tourism is the number one foreign exchange earner so when this is struggling then it will cause problems somewhere else,” she said.
The youngster said that although a lot of people in the ministry would like her to go to the regional youth congress and do well, “who knows maybe even win”, she wants to “bring something of substance” and something “helpful” to the ministry.
She said that young people in Barbados could play a greater role in the sector.
“The only question I have is if they can play a greater role right now in 2013 as young persons or could it be a case where we educate them so that in the coming years when they finish school or when they’re considering job opportunities if they would already have had one set in their minds saying ‘here’s a job’.
“A lot of people might not say this is a job that I see on the front line of tourism but this is a job where I can advocate for tourism and I can help build the image of my country because my role and my occupation that I choose, I may still come into contact with tourist and I want to provide the best tourism product that my country can offer.
“I know there’s marketing and pushing the Ministry of Tourism and Barbados as a destination via the social media networks which is what young people like to do – talk about their experiences – but outside of that I think one of the major things that can be done is to just educate them.
“Not just a one-off thing, but a consistent thing where you can let them know these are the jobs you can get and how those jobs they might not have considered inside that box of tourism can impact on how our tourism product is marketed and how it’s advertised to persons. They’re lots of young persons who want to travel as well,” Kezia said.
As part of her “job” she will do a three week stint at the Barbados Tourism Authority, along with the runners-up. She will be getting a feel for how things work in the sector.
Kezia is also involved in the Literary and Debating Society where she is a floor member. She used to an athlete but she said she hasn’t done anything this school year.
Also she joined the Cadets because she liked the uniform and had an opportunity to learn to shoot.
She’s not planning to join any other organisations or clubs in any hurry although she has been “offered and invited”.
“I don’t like to do things if I know I can’t give them my all. I’m in some extra-curricular that are a bit time demanding and more or less you could consider selfish in the times that they want you to be there in terms of rehearsals and practice you have to put into them.
“There are a lot of things I want to try but I can’t try all of them because I know that when crunch time really comes and I have school work and then some of extra curricular that are already there, I won’t be able to give them 100 per cent. I have opted to not do them,” she said.
She does get time for herself and noted she would not say she was one of the busiest teenagers.
Her advice to students looking to enter is simple.
“Go for it! It doesn’t matter what you are in. You could be a business student, a science student, language it doesn’t matter because if we know about tourism and we know about our country’s tourism product, and how the ministry and the various marketing bodies like the BTA, the BHTA and the BTI are trying to come together to produce a tourism product and we know about it then when we’re thinking about careers, we can say that’s an occupation we can pick up but through this competition we are guaranteed to learn more about our island.
“Sometimes we spend so much time doing other things we don’t remember about the beauty that people come to Barbados for and the competition is guaranteed to remind you about the ones that you know and the ones that never even came across your mind,” she asserted. [email protected]